High School

102 Top Pick for homeschool curriculumIndicates that the item is a Top Pick. The full review is available in 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum.

Journey Through Time (JTT) is an honors level program with integrated courses that cover history, literature, writing, and vocabulary for grades eight through twelve. Each course should earn students a full year’s credit in both history and language arts. Some map work and a few art projects are included in some courses, but not sufficient for credits in geography or art. The five courses and their grade levels are:

The Ancient Times, Grade 8
The Greeks and Romans, Grade 9
The Medieval Times, Grade 10
The Renaissance and the Age of Reason, Grade 11
The Modern to Post Modern Times, Grade 12

While courses are written by three different authors, all courses have the same format. A teacher edition and a book of readings, both published by HEP Publishing Company, are used along with a number of other resources for each course. Each student needs a three-inch binder with 32 dividers for compiling their work from each week’s lesson.

All courses incorporate lessons and strategies from Writing with the Masters composition course (also published by HEP Publishing), so that book is required for all five levels. The Pocket Style Manual is similarly used with all five courses.

Streams of Civilization, Volume One (published by Christian Liberty Press) and The Bible are used with The Ancient Times while BJU Press’s World History (fourth edition) is used with the other four courses. Vocabulary from Classical Roots, Books A through E are used one book per year. Other required resources vary by course but they always include a number of novels and companion study guides for each. The type of study guide isn’t specified, so you can use Spark Notes or other study guides as you prefer. Videos and websites are also frequently recommended. The teacher edition includes cautionary notes for parents about some of the recommended resources, sometimes even about minor issues.

You will need to purchase the teacher edition and tests for whichever history textbook and Vocabulary from Classical Roots course you are using. The last two courses also require the student activity book for BJU Press’s World History.

Below are listed the required books plus some of the other resources used for each level:
The Ancient Times The Screwtape Letters, Charlotte’s Web, The Golden Goblet, The Cat of Bubastes, Hittite Warrior, and Year of the Tiger
The Greeks and Romans
The Iliad, The Odyssey, Poetics, Oedipus Rex, Antigone, Julius Caesar, The Bronze Bow, Uncle Josh’s Maps (CD), and the movies Clash of the Titans and The Jesus Film
The Medieval Times
Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Song of Roland, Divine Comedy: Inferno, Canterbury Tales, Everyman, and Design Your Own Coat of Arms (Dover) plus movies such as Sword of the Valiant, The Knight’s Tale, and Dark Kingdom: The Dragon King
The Renaissance and the Age of Reason
The Importance of Being Earnest, The Scarlet Letter, A Christmas Carole, Tartuffe, Hamlet, Great American Short Stories, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, and the movies Luther, A Man for All Seasons, and The Patriot
The Modern to Post Modern Times
Picture of Dorian Gray, Brave New World, Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, Frankenstein, A Doll’s House, and the movies Bleeding Kansas and Gods and Generals. While it’s not on the list at the front of the book, Great American Short Stories (Dover) also seems to be a required resource.

Literature, composition, vocabulary, and history are all covered in depth. Courses require a lot of reading as you can see from the lists of books for each course. Remember that these are read along with the book of readings and the assignments from the history text each year. Composition work is also demanding. It begins in the first course with the basic paragraph and how to expand it and continues through many types of essays including literary analysis and the research essay in the final course. Research skills are developed throughout the courses.

Comprehensive, chronological history is taught through literary works as well as the readings from the textbooks. (Note that splitting the BJU Press World History book over four courses means that the literary works, movies, and online videos provide the majority of the history material each year.) World history is the primary focus, but United States history (a high school requirement) is also covered through readings in the companion books for both eleventh and twelfth grades. Thus, U.S. History is covered within the two final courses. Coverage of government and economics is another concern since those two semester-long courses often substitute for any other social studies during one year of high school. While government topics are raised within JTT, you will need to provide separate courses for government and economics.

JTT courses are written from a Christian point of view and use distinctly Protestant textbooks. However, elements of classical education also play a role in these courses with readings from great books, primary source documents, speeches, poetry, dramas, and other sources in the JTT book of readings as well as in some of the literature selections. However, these are not strictly classical courses because reading material is drawn from a variety of resources (textbooks and other books in addition to the Great Books), and instructional methodology mixes traditional, classical, and other approaches.

JTT teacher editions have brief instructions followed by a list of required textbooks and materials. The bulk of each teacher edition is weekly lesson plans. Assignments with explanations are given under the headings: vocabulary, history, literature, and writing for most lessons. Video or movie assignments show up frequently in all but the first teacher edition, and there are infrequent projects (generally art projects) and “assignments” (long term assignments such as a research paper or preparing and presenting a monologue). Some lessons include additional information plus assignment options or field trip suggestions in the teacher edition. Many of these suggestions help to make lessons more interesting so you should try to use them whenever possible.

Teacher editions for the first three courses include a sample calendar showing you how to break down each week’s assignments into daily assignments. Teachers or parents need to provide students with assignments. While students can complete much of their work independently, the more discussion that takes place the better. (This is a good reason to try to use these courses with groups that meet at least once a week.) Teachers or parents also need to work with students through some of their writing lessons and assignments, evaluating rough drafts and final papers. Parents who need assistance in this area might want take advantage of the Writing with the Masters Critique Service that offers professional critiques with correction suggestions. http://www.hepbookstore.com/writing-with-the-masters/

The courses originated from “university-model” courses taught by the authors where students would meet a few days per week, then work on assignments between classes. Translating a university-model course into something that can be used by a single student or other “group” class settings has left a few gaps in the explanations, but these are minor annoyances. For example, a binder with 32 dividers is specified in the list of required resources. The 32 dividers will be used for each week’s work. But students are also told to create an “Authors and Works Log” in their binders, and one guide suggests maintaining a separate binder section for corrected papers. The authors tell me that the "Authors and Works Log" is actually kept in a spiral notebook rather than a section of the binder. But you still might want to add an extra divider to have a section for corrected papers.

Evaluation is another “spotty” area. Some teacher editions specify when to take text-related quizzes, and some suggest points at which you should create your own assessments, but sometimes you just have to use your own judgment. There are no suggestions as to how to compile grades for various course components into grades for history and language arts.

Summary

JTT courses definitely fit the bill as honors-level courses with challenging course work. Outside of the classical education realm, most honors courses have been developed for secular audiences, so this meets a real need among those looking for challenging coursework with Christian content. Also, the tight integration of subject matter with the development of writing, research, and thinking skills will probably make the courses more meaningful and motivating for many students.

The Virtual Homeschool Group offers online courses for homeschoolers for free. (Students still need to purchase course textbooks for most courses.)

Homeschooling parents who were teaching in homeschool co-ops joined forces to create Virtual Homeschool Group site. They provide and maintain the platform, relying on donations for funding. Courses are created and taught by volunteers, so courses vary in design and teaching style.

They offer a variety of types of courses. Some are actual group courses where students and teachers connect in virtual classrooms, while "at-your-own-pace" courses are designed for independent study by an individual student with open enrollment at any time. Some courses might even be used for your own group class. Courses appear to target about fifth grade and up with many for high school level.

Looking through their class archive, it appears that they began with a heavy emphasis on science, particularly courses based on Apologia science textbooks. They have expanded so that there are now courses in math and language arts. There's even a Speech and Debate course! There are resources for study and thinking skills. However, there remain more courses for science than for other areas.

A new history class (fifth grade level) and a Digital Photography course appear to be in the works with this year's "live" courses (that already have full enrollment) likely being recorded to create "at-your-own-pace" courses for next year. Likewise, live courses in Spanish and Japanese that are full at present might be available at a later date. You can sign up on their list for notification when new courses are made available for enrollment.

Some courses are more sophisticated than others. For example, among the "at-your-own-pace" math courses presently available, the Saxon Algebra 1 course includes recorded lectures, computer-scored problem sets, and computer-scored weekly tests. However, the Saxon Advanced Mathematics course has recorded lectures, but no computerized problem sets with scoring. They do say that "students can scan problems sets and upload for volunteer grading"—an amazingly generous offer for a free course to make.

These courses might well be equal to others that cost hundreds of dollars, so this is really a wonderful option made possible by technology and the generosity of those creating and providing the courses.

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